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Blueberry ‘farm’acy

first_imgBy Gerard KrewerUniversity of GeorgiaFor more than 60 years, the University of Georgia’sblueberry-breeding program has developed varieties adapted to thestate, where farmers now have the fifth-largest blueberryproduction in the nation.Growers have planted millions of blueberry bushes as a cash crop.Homeowners have planted countless bushes, too. Everyone knew thedelicious berries were great to eat. But only recently has theirhidden health value been revealed.It turns out that this humble fruit, native to the river basinsof south Georgia, is one of the world’s great health treasures.AntioxidantsBlueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, whichhelp human bodies prevent cancer, heart disease and stroke.Scientists have long known that blueberries contain vitamins A, Cand E. This is where some of the antioxidants are located.However, anthocyanins and other compounds, some of which providetheir rich blue color, are blueberries’ major sources ofantioxidants.Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and TuftsUniversity have shown that blueberry extract can improve themotor skills of both mice and humans.Mice fed blueberry extract had improved memory, too. Research isunder way to see if blueberries can improve human memory.Still moreBlueberries also contain the cancer-fighting compound, ellagicacid. And they have significant amounts of dietary fiber, whichhelps prevent colon cancer.Recent research by the UGA food scientists indicates thatphenolic compounds found in blueberries work against colon cancercell lines.These amazing berries contain a compound that helps preventurinary infections, too, by keeping bacteria from attaching tothe urinary tract lining.As you can see, blueberries have benefits from the top to thebottom. The harvest is in full swing in Georgia, too, so you canget fresh blueberries now from the grocery store or producemarket.Freeze ’emFrozen blueberries are another economical source of healthbenefits. You can pick you own at many Georgia farms and freezethem. Or you can buy them in plastic bags at the store.For the past year, I’ve been eating them almost every day with mybreakfast cereal. I’ve much felt better since I started regularlyincluding blueberries in my diet. If you’d like to plant blueberries in your yard, they’re fairlyeasy to care for and can provide years of health-enhancingberries.The on-line Georgia Extension publication, “Home GardenBlueberries,” (pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/l106-w.html)can show you how to grow them.Or ask your UGA Extension Service county agent, who can alsodirect you to any nearby pick-your-own blueberry farm.(Gerard Krewer is an Extension Service horticulturist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)last_img read more

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